Local News

Memorial service held for Rocky Mount woman

Posted October 29, 2009 5:36 p.m. EDT
Updated March 31, 2010 7:51 a.m. EDT

— A memorial service was held Thursday for a Rocky Mount woman whose death is one of those under investigation by a special task force.

Elizabeth Jane Smallwood's remains were found Feb. 13 along Melton Drive at the Nash-Edgecombe county line. A medical examiner’s report indicated that her body could have been at the site for six months to a year.

Smallwood's remains were identified on Oct. 12. She had not been reported missing to authorities. An official cause of death was not known, police said.

For weeks after she was identified, Smallwood's remains sat unclaimed. Carolyn Whitehead-Hart, of Whitehead Funeral home, said it seemed she'd been forgotten.

“We came up with this idea to give her a decent burial,” Whitehead-Hart said.

The funeral home, at 2129 Lawrence Circle in Rocky Mount, donated the free memorial service on Thursday.

Smallwood is one of six black women whose bodies have been found in the same rural area of Edgecombe County.

Since 2005, authorities have recovered the remains of Jarniece Latonya Hargrove, 31, Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 28, Melody LaShae Wiggins, 29, Ernestine Battle, 50, and Jackie Nikelia Thorpe, 35.

Friends and family members of those five victims started the grassroots group MOMS (Murdered or Missing Sisters). The group helped with Thursday night's memorial.

"I want to be here for her," Diana Nicholson said at the service.

Nicholson' s daughter, Taraha Shenice Nicholson, 29, was reported missing Feb. 22. Her remains were found March 7 on Marriott Road in Edgecombe County.

In September, Antwan Maurice Pittman, 31, was arrested and charged him with murder in Nicholson's death.

Edna Anthony was among those in the crowd. She was friends with Smallwood and said she knew most of the other murdered women and some that have been reported missing.

"Liz was a real sweet and kind person. All the girls were," Anthony said.

Following the service, Smallwood's family will be sent to Georgia, where her family lives.